The Gophers (8-2) jumped out to a 25-point first half lead on Miami (5-3) Thursday night. Minnesota used its size as an advantage early before eventually getting the 74-67 win.
"I thought we played our first half to perfection tonight," head coach Pam Borton said. "I don't think we could have played much better than that."
Much of that had to do with Amanda Zahui B., who scored 14 points in the first half. Miami had no answer for the 6-foot 5-inch redshirt freshman center -- until the second half.
Borton said her team got away from the game plan in the second stanza as Miami trimmed their lead down to six. Zahui B. wasn't on the court at the time, fouling out with more than 12 minutes left in the game.
Miami got the Gophers out of their comfort zone, harassing them with a physical full court press.
"I think it [disrupted our team] in the beginning of the second half," Borton said. "We had a couple turnovers and...I thought we were a little hesitant. We weren't being aggressive like we were towards the end of the game.
That late game aggression came in the form of Rachel Banham. The junior guard scored 10 points in the final three minutes, getting to the basket and drawing fouls. Banham was 14 of 15 from the free-throw line and finished with a game-high 27 points.
But at one instance, it looked like she might not play in the second half. Late in the first stanza Banham fell to the ground and winced, holding her right knee. After about a minute of silence from the crowd, she was helped off the court.
Senior forward Micäella Riché said all she could think was "oh shoot" watching the Gophers' standout guard go down with an apparent knee injury. But Banham ran back out with her knee taped up to start the second half and said, "I'm fine, just tweaked it."
But even with Banham back, the Gophers weren't at full strength for much of the second half with Zahui B. out. Riché said that she looked to step up after Zahui B. fouled out, switching back to her old role of center. She tallied 15 points and seven rebounds in the win.
"It was nice, I miss it," Riché said of the position change. "I've been doing it my whole life, so it was an easy transition...we practice it."
Riché's ability to play multiple positions helped the Gophers avoid a letdown in the second half against Miami. Minutes after appearing hurt, Banham showed exactly why she's so important to this team.
"She came back and walked into the locker room at halftime with no tears," Borton said. "She sat down and said 'I'm fine' and she was good to go."